More than a dozen members of Burkina Faso's army seized control of state television late Friday, declaring that the country's coup leader-turned-president, Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba, had been overthrown after only nine months in power.
A statement read by a junta spokesman said Capt. Ibrahim Traore is the new military leader of Burkina Faso, a volatile West African country that is battling a mounting Islamic insurgency.
Burkina Faso's new military leaders said the country's borders had been closed and a curfew would be in effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The transitional government and national assembly were ordered dissolved.
Damiba and his allies overthrew the democratically elected president, coming to power with promises of make the country more secure. However, violence has continued unabated and frustration with his leadership has grown in recent months.
“Faced by the continually worsening security situation, we the officers and junior officers of the national armed forces were motivated to take action with the desire to protect the security and integrity of our country,” said the statement read by the junta spokesman, Capt. Kiswendsida Farouk Azaria Sorgho.
The soldiers promised the international community they would respect their commitments and urged Burkinabes “to go about their business in peace.”
“A meeting will be convened to adopt a new transitional constitution charter and to select a new Burkina Faso president be it civilian or military,” Sorgho added.
Damiba had just returned from addressing the U.N. General Assembly in New York as Burkina Faso's head of state. Tensions, though, had been mounting for months. In his speech, Damiba defended his January coup as “an issue of survival for our nation,” even if it was ”perhaps reprehensible” to the international community.
Constantin Gouvy, Burkina Faso researcher at Clingendael, said Friday night’s events “follow escalating tensions within the ruling MPSR junta and the wider army about strategic and operational decisions to tackle spiraling insecurity.”
“Members of the MPSR increasingly felt Damiba was isolating himself and casting aside those who helped him seize power,” Gouvy told The Associated Press.
Gunfire had erupted in the capital, Ouagadougou, early Friday and hours passed without any public appearance by Damiba. Late in the afternoon, his spokesman posted a statement on the presidency's Facebook page saying that “negotiations are underway to bring back calm and serenity.”
Friday’s developments felt all too familiar in West Africa, where a coup in Mali in August 2020 set off a series of military power grabs in the region. Mali also saw a second coup nine months after the August 2020 overthrow of its president, when the junta's leader sidelined his civilian transition counterparts and put himself alone in charge.